As I've spent these past several months adjusting to the diagnoses of my mental illnesses, redefining who I am as compared to who I thought I was, I've had to accept and embrace new found knowledge, and grapple on to it as a source of empowerment in my fight against an invisible assailant. Sadly though, dependent on how news of my illnesses is viewed by others and based on the fact that my healing is partly based on perseverance and strength, never has the company I've kept been subject to more scrutiny.
Since learning that I suffer from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and an Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS), sharing my diagnoses along with their treatments with family and friends has been not only enlightening, but at times hurtful. This generation along with those to follow have the advantage of living in a time when most mental illness disorders actually have a name and a classification in the various editions of the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
However, I grew up in a time when the stigma of being "crazy" was far fiercer than now. Along with explaining to those in my life today that my constant use of laxatives is not because of chronic constipation, and that going days without food is not because I'm watching my girlish figure, I've had to explain that EDNOS is a very real mental illness, one which has a greater mortality rate than any other mental illness including rates for anorexia and bulimia. A response such as "You should just stop with that anorexia bullshit!" only serves to kick down my shaky, slowly growing self-esteem. Instead of standing firm in what I now understand to be true, and not because I'm "looking for attention," my fragility is still such that words from my loved ones have the power to strip me of the armour I'm trying to fit into.
Now is not the time for me to be people pleasing. Yes, if I am to heal and overcome these illnesses, it's necessary to have a strong support system. However, I've recently been learning that the support may not be from those I had assumed would sit on my bedside when I haven't been able to lift my head for weeks, and stroke my hair with soothing whispers of, "It's going to be alright."
Unfortunately, I am discovering like a bullet between the eyes that the ones I had expected to help me stand and brush the tangles from my matted hair, are those who are uttering the dreaded "Just pull yourself together," and "There's nothing even wrong with you," or the most brutal attack, "Smarten up. It's not like you have cancer."
For my health, for my healing, these people are being kept at a distance. And like all blessings, I'm grateful for those I barely know, strangers even, who are stepping forward with words of encouragement; words which give me the strength and courage I need to persevere. Friends are being weeded out as I seek out those who are still calling and coming to sit on the bed next to me, while those who have rolled their eyes are being deleted from my life.
Everything about illness, any illness is difficult. But at this time in my life, when every ounce of understanding is a magic elixir which lifts me from the arms of the demons, those who come bearing toxic spells are not permitted inside.
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